Monday, 23 October 2017

An Impossible Poison

A still from An Impossible Poison, 2017 (c) Bidisha

Updated 10th April 2018

I am delighted to announce the release of my first short film, An Impossible Poison, which received its premiere at Lettrétage in Berlin on Thursday 16th November 2017 at 8pm as part of an event called Breaking Ground Berlin: A New British Con_Text. The event also featured live performances from writer and film-maker Xiaolu Guo and performance poet Francesca Beard. An Impossible Poison received its London premier at the Royal Albert Hall on Wednesday 7th March 2018 as part of the That's What She Said night. Details here.

The next screening of An Impossible Poison will be on Wednesday 25th April at Words with....Bidisha, a free event at the Albert Sloman Library, University of Essex, followed by an in-depth conversation. Details here.

"all the careful crafting of an art film, from its velvety decor to its heightened gothic colour is this attention to styling that brings the element of luxury...every frame is a portrait."
Girls on Film, review and interview 

"[a] brilliant horror short"
Emerald Street, article on women in film

An Impossible Poison is now available to view for free on Vimeo below. Turn the sound up and go to full screen:

This is my first film as a director. So far, An Impossible Poison has made the Official Selection of the Five Continents International Film Festival, the International Women’s Film Festival and the Fake Flesh Film Festival which specialises in horror and fantasy; it is also a semi-finalist in the 2017 STIFF San Maurino Torinese film festival. The London X4 Seasonal Short Film Festival reviewed it as “eerie, atmospheric [and] well directed” and Club des Femmes, the feminist film collective, have reviewed it as "intriguing and very atmospheric, beautifully shot and edited."

In a perceptive and very flattering review and interview, which can be read in full here, Girls on Film describe An Impossible Poison as having "all the careful crafting of an art film, from its velvety decor to its heightened gothic colour palette...this attention to styling that brings the element of luxury...crossing over into installation-worthy territory...every frame is a portrait."

An Impossible Poison is an intense 7 minute work which dramatises a few lines from some poems of mine (as commissioned by Speaking Volumes, who wanted me to reinterpret the idea of a writer performing her own work). The texts deal with the aftermath of deceit, with ritualistic and ceremonial traditions and the continued attraction of a witchcraft tradition in the contemporary world. The atmosphere of the film is heightened and carefully designed, the look stylised, with the camera lingering on the details of cloth, jewellery, décor and on the profile and hands of the main character and her props. In the film, a woman enacts an occult ritual over a score of eerie choral music. It gets steadily more extreme as the woman is absorbed and exhilarated by the ritual, which offers both release from pain and the thrill of encountering the uncanny.

The credits are as follows:
  • Written and directed by Bidisha
  • Camera operator - Amy Cameron
  • Editing – Amy Cameron

Just for fun, a list of some of the films I like can be found here. Links to my film essays and reviews can be found all over the Net, although I recently wrote about Angelina Jolie's work as a director, the portrayal of Syria in documentaries and features, Wonder Woman and women in action films, The Assassin and the 'wuxia' Chinese swordfighting genre, women in dystopic science fiction films and documentaries on rape camps in the Bosnian wars and child refugees in Lebanon and Syria.

Still from An Impossible Poison, 2017, (c) Bidisha

Still from An Impossible Poison,2017  (c) Bidisha
The full text of the main poem (which I don’t use all of in the film), as well as the extra script lines, are below. The first line of the script is “deceit is my friend” and the final line is “not to suffer”.

An Impossible Poison

Deceit is my friend and it hangs over me,
An angelic nurse hovering at my bedside,
Its wings flexing open, rich and exuberant,
Its long feathers dipped in cold holy water,
Casting drops around me like a bare blanket.

Deceit is my life-partner, the only one I need,
My counterpart, my foil, my voice of reason,
My stalwart retainer who never surprises me,
Accompanying me invisibly down the aisle,
A ghost groom in a wedding video on repeat.

Deceit is the ally who remains at my shoulder
As the others drift coolly away in plain disbelief,
Politely receding while I bid them a sad farewell
Like a queen standing in her castle, nobly robed
In betrayal, the heavy cloak I can never cast off.

Deceit is my meat and drink, its claggy taste
Sits in my throat like an impossible poison
I can never fully purge as I toast the company
Who have no clue that all I can taste is lies
Swilling in my mouth like a long deep kiss.

[Extra script lines as follows:]

The offer of blood is the oldest gift
I offer it up, I offer it up

In the failure of law, rightness is restored,
That is only fair.

The slow inexorable ceremony of natural justice always goes the same way.
First, the procession. Then, the sacrifice. Then the shadow walk.

The offer made, the gods collect
And in return they grand the chance to survive.

Not to succeed,
Just to continue struggling,
Brute survival in the cold hard world.

I pay the blood tax to survive,
Not to be destroyed.

Just survive,
Not to suffer.

All images and text (c) Bidisha, 2017